By Grace Awosanmi – Research Administrator of Nigeria hub
Revision made by Dave Gerow
The Nigerian hub recently (April 2019) made a follow-up visit to Itagunmodi, an ancient but underdeveloped community of farmers famed as the “city of gold” in the Atakumosa West Local Government Area of Osun State.
Under the leadership of the Hub Director, Prof. Sola Ajayi, a team of 9 experts were involved in the field activity. They were drawn from First Technical University, Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. The team comprised specialists in Adult Education, Crop Production, Ecology, Geology, Geography, Remote Sensing, Youth Development/Psychology, and a bilingual Hausa-Yoruba-English interpreter. The primary objective of the visit was to assess social and environmental changes in the community since the 2016 visit, during which time the community had witnessed an unrestricted influx of foreign and local migrant miners engaging in illicit gold mining, mostly coming from the northern part of the country. The assessment involved observations, key informant interviews, focus group discussions and the administration of questionnaires.
In the time between the two project visits, the community had been diluted. The miners who had previously lived outside the community have now settled in and make up about 75% of the population. Consequently, there has been an apparent shift in the social life and economic activities of the community. The new demographics have occasioned a shift in the kinds of businesses that exist, food preferences, music and even language. Rather than the miners learning the local language, indigenes were learning the miners’ language. The impoverished community members were jumping at the opportunity to make money from the miners without being mindful of the consequences. Home and land owners chose to rent out any available place/farmland to the miners, who are offering as much as four times the normal rates, and thereafter relocating to non-mining and safer communities. Particularly insightful were the discussions held with the women’s food vendor group, youths and other key informants in the community. Various concerns were raised over the recent developments: the invasion by artisanal miners from neighbouring communities, states and countries into their community; the negligence of the government; and the poor relationship between the residents and artisanal miners.
The field visit afforded the hub an opportunity to pre-test the questionnaires designed for a socio-economic and demographic survey and to strengthen relationships with the community through the identification of community representatives.